Category Archives: Writing

On Not Wasting the Summer

I am terrified of wasting the summer. I’m going to try to use this blog to hold me accountable. My main goal for the summer is to finish my book manuscript. A personal goal is to declutter the house. I would consider the summer a waste if I don’t have a draft of a manuscript by its end. I would also like to draft some articles, but the main goal is the book.

I have gone to great lengths to ensure that I do not waste the summer. I have joined an inexpensive bootcamp where we report our progress everyday to a group. I am going to a write on site once a week. Also, I am going to a writing retreat organized by the university at the end of next week. I’m trying to line up writing partners for other days of the week as well. It’s like – why can’t I just sit down and write? Why do I need all this? Really the answer is that I can’t manage the empty time. It’s too much. Sometimes I feel like I get more done during the school year because my time is structured by classes, meetings, etc.

What works best for me is a write on site. I went to one for two hours yesterday and it really was amazing. I opened my computer, turned it on, and just wrote. I didn’t get on Facebook or read blogs or the New York Times. Having other people there working really shames me into working too. I always think – I can’t be on Facebook and waste time with all these serious people here working diligently. I really can’t be that person. So whether impression management moves me or the need to perform diligence – I’ll take it. I got a lot done in only two hours.

Today I made a list of things that need to be fixed in the chapter that I’m working on. Maybe this weekend I’ll fix them. I would like to have two sample chapters done by the end of May (which is two days away). The proposal is drafted and I’m meeting with someone about it next week. This summer social accountability is the name of the game for me!

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I Love Writing

The truth is that I used to hate writing. I would constantly say that I hated writing. It caused a lot of anxiety for me and the actual act of writing felt painful. And then I realized that I needed to change my relationship to writing if I were to survive at all in this academic game. So I prohibited myself from saying, “I hate writing.” I would tell myself “I love writing.” It sounds crazy, but this actually helped. That, and writing 500 words a day. Once I started getting words on the page I began to enjoy (a little bit) the act of editing, revising, and rewriting. And then I actually liked submitting my “finished” gems to journals. Once I started accumulating “finished” pieces I actually enjoyed writing even more. Don’t even get me started on the joy of receiving an article acceptance or seeing my edited volume chapter in print. After that I am now hooked. And now I can (kind of) honestly say I love writing.

Write On Site

A lot of my facebook friends who are academics constantly post that they are going to a “write on site” event in their city or university. I went to one of these last Friday here at Post doc university and found the experience to be so so. There were people there writing, but I didn’t know any of them. The pro was that there seemed to be no internet. I don’t know if the lack of internet was due to my technological ineptitude or the actual absence of it, but I must say, that part was genius.

Writing Advice from an Unlikely Source

In the Sunday New York Times from yesterday Oct. 7 I read an article in the Sunday Business section about productivity and hours worked. You can find it here. I thought the writer raised some interested questions about how an eight hour work day can actually limit productivity by putting emphasis on being in the office rather then meeting specific benchmarks. I’m not teaching this semester, but having the whole day to work is killing me. I always feel like I should get more done, even though I do work steadily everyday. I’m trying to think about productivity through meeting goals rather than hours worked. So I didn’t beat myself up today when I sat down and watched TV for an hour and a half this morning. Anyway, to that end I have made a semester plan and I’m working to meet my goals. I did like the writing advice offered in the column and I thought it was worthwhile to share it here:

WRITE FASTER Even if you need to create A-plus work for a project, it needn’t be perfect right off the bat. When some people sit down to write a long memo, they insist on perfecting each sentence before moving to the next one. They want to complete all the stages of the writing process at the same time — a most difficult task. In my experience, this leads to very slow writing.

A better approach separates the main steps in the writing process. First, compose an outline for what you are going to say, and in what order. Then write a rough draft, knowing it will be highly imperfect. Then go back over your work and revise as needed. This is the time to perfect the phrasing of those sentences.

In general, don’t waste your time creating A-plus work when B-plus is good enough. Use the extra time to create A-plus work where it matters most.

I normally don’t read the business section of the New York Times, but I’m glad I stumbled upon this yesterday. Now I can get on with the business of writing.

The 500 words that changed my writing life

For some reason I like when the first of the month falls on a Monday. This seems like a great opportunity for a fresh start. It’s like new years but without all the baggage. I have gotten back on the writing horse with 500 words a day. I got out of the habit of writing 500 words a day, even though that strategy got me through my dissertation. My goal is to write at least 500 words everyday this week on this article I’m working on. Today I managed 522 words.

Other people have asked me how I do my 500 words so I thought I would share it here:
Routine for writing 500 words a day

  1. Before I start writing I write down the word count and add 500 to it so that I can see my target number of words
  2. I write  – some days are easier than others. Some days it’s like pulling teeth to get to 500 and on others I just sail there in an hour or less. I can’t always predict what days will be what. It depends on my mood, the material, if I have an idea or not, and if I know where I’m going.
  3. I write 500 words for 5 or 6 days a week
  4. If I write more than 500 words on one day that does not subtract from the words I can write on the next day. Also, I cannot write less than 500 words, but if I do, the missing words do not accumulate to the next day. (For me I write so incrementally b/c the idea of having to produce a massive amount on one day overwhelms me. So it would be counterproductive to let my words accumulate to a later date)

I like writing 500 words because I need to be able to quantify my productivity with words on the page. I tried working for an hour a day or some specific time period and I would just not write for 2 hours. I would stare at the computer screen. So I had to start counting words. I like knowing that I can realistically write 10,000 words a month and knowing that helps me to plan what I can get done. I feel a little bit like an infomercial. Just send cash or money order to living academically if you found this advice helpful. 500 words a day changed my life, and for just $9.99 it can change yours too!

Word Count

I’m trying to document my word count to chart my progress on this article. I am part of a writing group over at Dame Eleanor Hull’s place and I really appreciate the accountability with having to check in every week. I’ve been looking for such a community in real life, but while writing my diss and now, I have been unsuccessful in establishing one. After hearing tales of an amazing writing group from a past colleague I tried to get other graduate students to form one. I think everyone was very reticent to share their work. Even after grad school, reluctance to share seems to continue to be the case for many people. I got the urge to pass around my work around the time I decided that I wanted to be a prolific academic writer. One of my mentors told me to write unselfconsciously. This seems like simple advice and even like it’s easier said than done. However, for me, this direction changed how I think about writing. I now try to remind myself that it is a process and really never a final product. And to that end, as part of my process today, I achieved 599 words.

Word Count

I normally try to write 500 words a day. Today I got to 423 words and then I had to attend a talk in my department. Good news: the talk was excellent. Bad news: I will have to write 577 tomorrow. Stay tuned.

545 words written on my article

Living Academically Together

Since living academically was driving me insane I decided to join a writing group over here. I have this semester off from teaching and I am scared sh*tless. The last time I have the fall semester with no teaching I got NOTHING done. I am terrified that this will happen again. Should fear of not getting anything done not provide sufficient animus to spur me into action I will religiously follow this writing group. We’ll see how this turns out.

Living Academically is driving me insane

I have been working on this article for the past 2 weeks. I am going insane. The editor of the journal returned it to me with some comments to focus it more and add some citations. So now I have been trying to do that and I am going crazy. Basically, I keep looking at other articles for examples of how to structure my article. I have been relentlessly searching for articles and reading the current edition of the goal journal for publication. Now I’m not so sure that this should be the goal journal, but if it’s not the goal journal then do I need to make all these revisions? Am I just giving up by going to another (less known, less important) journal. Sigh. I am torn. The year of living academically is tearing me apart.